Disclosure: I was not paid or compensated in any way by anything or anyone mentioned in this post. All opinions and thoughts are my own and may not reflect other people’s thoughts and experiences.
Some of this was written my second week in Korea. Some of it was written almost 3 months in 🙂
I absolutely 100% have not processed what I’ve done. I think it will take months for it to really sink in. I don’t feel like a teacher. I don’t feel like someone who lives in Korea. Those were my exact thoughts walking into my classroom this morning. I mean, that just sounds crazy – my classroom! All I know is that I feel like I’m role-playing and this will be all over soon. This doesn’t feel like it’s my life.
My first week in Korea went by fast and thank God for that. I had the flu and it made me miserable. I spent my first weekend sweating it off in bed and my first week going through the motions of being a native English teacher at the Elementary school where I was placed – cold sweats and all. Ironically, the 6th graders are learning about how to say that they are sick, have a runny nose, headache and fever.
I couldn’t call out because it was my first week. Never mind that, I couldn’t call out because in Korea they don’t call out. They go to work while being sick. That’s why you see people wearing masks (aside from trying to protect their lungs from yellow dust). I am ‘allowed’ several sick days as outlined in my contract but that’s sort of a joke. We as native English teachers are told to go into work instead. If your co-workers feel you are not well enough when they see you struggling through the day then maybe they will ask you if you want to go to the hospital – yes, the hospital – not home.
I have gotten sick 3 times since being in Korea – I never get sick. My body and probably my mind have not adjusted well to this country (more on that later). I have never called out and I have avoided the hospital but I got talked into laying down in the nurses office which has nice rock hard Korean beds to lay on – cartoon comforters and all.
I live in the hood. I had suspected I was in the poor area of town on my first full day in my apartment when I stepped out for a walk. There are lots of stray cats that seem to always be in heat running around and there are shacks for houses in my neighborhood. I DID NOT expect to see that in South Korea. My suspicions were confirmed when a coworker told me that this was a poor area on my first day of work. At first I felt like there was nothing in my neighborhood but chicken and beer hofs (pubs) but I’m slowly finding things in my neighborhood and I’m warming up to it.
My apartment is a small studio with a small kitchen and laundry room that I use to store a lot of stuff. The place came fully furnished with lots of appliances and essentials so I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to spend money on pots and pans and what not. I wasn’t happy about cleaning out a bunch of christmas decorations – It was February. Having just gone through hell moving out of my NYC apartment, I was actually really annoyed that my apartment hadn’t been cleaned or cleared of clutter, dust and junk. I also learned the hard way that I only have 15 minutes of hot water a day…. 15 minutes!
I’ve gotten used to my little cozy apartment and have warmed up to my neighborhood even though I leave the city every weekend (More on those trips in future posts). I wanted to be placed in a rural area rather than a city because I really wanted a change of pace from my NYC life. I see the advantages of living in the city – especially since I live within walking distance from downtown but, I hate that the mountains are so far from me. I wish I had a trail nearby to walk on everyday after school. This is actually something I’ve been struggling to deal with – I just imagined life to be different out here.
I still go back and forth on whether or not I can do a full year out here. I get annoyed reading other people’s blogs and watching vlogs that are completely positive. The truth is, it’s not all positive. I’m seeing more negative than positive actually. My situation isn’t bad but I wake up on most days thinking ‘What am I doing? What am I doing???!!’ Having completely dropped everything in my life to move to a country that I’m not in love with – it’s not easy. I try to remember my goals, why I left and what I’d be doing if I hadn’t left and it helps to calm my freak out moments. Hopefully I’ll stop having them so often.